We would like to welcome Jerry Patterson to the Ben Thompson Dedication & History Conference on Sunday. It’s an honor to have Commissioner Patterson as a guest and guest speaker. We look forward to hearing him talk.
When Ben Thompson came to America – A Great Find
The exact arrival date of when Ben Thompson and his family to America has been a question that has fascinated researchers and authors for decades. Canadian Author and researcher Lisa Lach, along with Ken Aaron, Baker family researcher from Knottingley, England, get full credit for both finding the arrival date and the landing place of the ship Ben Thompson came over on.
We’ve been keeping it secret for about a year and were going to surprise you with the answer in our new book coming out in 2013, but we decided to break the news here instead, in lieu of the April 29th dedication coming up. Thank you both, Ken and Lisa.
The Thompson family boarded the ship Granada from Liverpool, England, and arrived at New Orleans harbor on July 16, 1852. They travelled to Galveston, Houston, and through Bastrop before settling in Austin in November or December of 1852
Source: Ancestory.com; New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820-1945; National Archives’ Series Number: M259_36.
From Hutchings California Magazine, Vol. IV, No. 12 June 1860.
The ill-fated Steamer Granada, wrecked upon the rocks at Fort Point on the night of October 13, 1860. The Granada was a vessel of about 1400 tons, six years old, and had been running in the line between Aspinwall and Havana. She was one of the two vessels, the Moses Taylor being the other, purchased by Marshall O. Roberts and intended for the Pacific side of the new line between San Francisco and the Atlantic States by way of Tehuantepec. She left New York on her way to San Francisco on July 14, 1860, came through the Straits of Magellan, and after 14,000 miles of ocean voyage, without an accident, was wrecked upon endeavoring to enter her harbor of destination.
She had taken on board a pilot before passing Point Lobos, and it was doubtless owing to his rashness that the vessel was lost. He attempted to bring her in at evening and during a very heavy fog. A short time before the vessel struck, he had ordered a full head of steam to be turned on; and the ship was going at full speed when breakers were observed at her bow. The order was given to reverse the engines, but it was too late; she was already firmly imbedded in the sand and on the rocks — and there she remained.
There was no freight and no passengers on board but a son of Mr. Roberts. There was no loss of life. Strenuous attempts with steam-tugs and by pumping were made to save the steamer, but all failed and the wreck was dis-masted. It was sold at auction “for the benefit of whom it might concern” on October 18th for $9,400; ad measures were immediately taken to remove the engines, boilers and other valuable parts.
The rocky shore where the wreck lies has become famous for wrecks. It is the same where several previous ones took place, among them the Jenny Lind and Golden Fleece, the Chateau Palmer only a few years ago, and the General Cushing. The ship Euterpe went ashore there a few months since, but was fortunately recovered.
Have you found a fact about Ben or Billy Thompson that no one else has and feel like you need to share it? Email us what you’d like to share and we’ll post it and credit your name to the Ben Thompson Foundation website.
Ben Thompson Civil War Record
Ben Thompson served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War in the 2nd Regiment Texas Mounted Rifles, commanded by Colonel John S. Ford. On April 17, 1861, Company H of the 2nd Regiment Texas Mounted Rifles was organized, under Captain George. W. Hamner. At various times Captain Hamner’s Company H was also known as Captain Roark’s Company.
“Capt Hamner’s Company was organized on the 17th, inst., and the following commissioned officers elected: H. Huber, Captain G. Wythe Baylor 1st Lieut. G. W. Hagler, 2nd; Dr. D. Ford, Surgeon. This is a fine company and would do good service against old Abe’s cohorts, if they should come down on the Border.”
Ben Thompson enlisted as a Private in San Antonio on June 12, 1861, at the age of 17, in the 2nd Regiment Texas Mounted Rifles, Company H.
By December of 1861, Ben Thompson’s regiment was stationed at Fort Clark and he officially turned eighteen years old. In April 1862 Ben Thompson’s Regiment was at Camp Hudson and the regiment furloughed.
In April 1862, Ben’s regiment became the 2nd Texas Cavalry Co. F. Company F was commanded by Captain Tobin and Ben’s brother Billy was also is the same regiment.
On January 1-2, 1863, Ben and Billy Thompson participated in the Battle of Galveston, particularly in capturing the SS Harriet Lane. Six month later, on June 20, 1863, Ben and Billy participated in the Battle of LaFourche Crossing in Louisiana. Four months after that, Ben Thompson is at home on leave and marries Catherine L. Moore.
In January of 1864, Ben re-enlists and spends the remainder of the Civil War along the Rio Grande under Rip Ford.
If you can’t make it to the Ben Thompson Dedication this April 29, in Austin, we can deliver the event to you. Art Nunes, will be video taping both the graveside ceremony and the history conference making it available to you to order and watch anytime you want. You won’t have to miss a thing!
Click on the thumbnail below, print and mail in your order form.
1. When and where was Ben Thompson born?
Ben Thompson was born on November 2, 1843, in Knottingley, Yorkshire, England, to William and Mary Ann (Baker) Thompson.
2. How many siblings did Ben Thompson have?
Ben Thompson had one younger brother Billy, and two younger sisters Mary Jane and Fannie.
3. When did Ben Thompson arrive in America?
Ben Thompson, at the age of nine arrived in America during the summer of 1852, along with his parents, siblings Billy and Mary Jane. The Thompson family settled in Austin, Travis, County, Texas. More information about their passage will be revealed in the upcoming Ben Thompson book that is expected to be published in 2013.
5. Who did Ben Thompson marry and how many children did he have?
Ben Thompson married Catherine Louise Moore on November 26, 1863, in Austin, Texas, during the Civil War. They had two children Ben Jr., also known as “Benny,” and Katie who married Joseph B. Price, and lived in Bastrop.
4. When did Ben Thompson die and where is he buried?
Ben Thompson died simultaneously with John King Fisher on March 11, 1884, while they were at the Vaudeville Theatre in San Antonio Texas. Ben Thompson is buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
By Mike Cox (Reprinted with permission)
Thompson, a British-born former Texas Ranger and soldier of fortune with a penchant for booze and gambling, made quite a reputation as city marshal of Austin in the early 1880s. His life ended violently in San Antonio on the night of March 11, 1884 when someone gunned him down along with former outlaw-turned-lawman King Fisher of Uvalde.
The already-legendary shootist crumpled to the floor with his six-gun smoking, but the weapon he clutched in his hand when he died cannot be accounted for today.
Though neither Thompson nor Fisher could claim to be a church deacon, they had not been looking for trouble that evening. They were just out on the town in the Alamo City, taking in a variety show after dinner and numerous drinks.
But Thompson had a well-known temper, particularly when in his cups. A verbal sparring match led to Thompson slapping Joe Foster, the former business partner of the late Jack Harris, founder of the establishment where they stood, Jack Harris’ Vaudeville Theatre and Saloon. Moments later, lead started flying.
No matter the exact circumstances of what happened that evening, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that it had something to do with the fact that Thompson had killed Harris back on July 11, 1882. Charged with the murder, he had been acquitted.
The coroner’s verdict concluded Thompson and Fisher died “from the effects of pistol shot wounds from pistols held and fired from the hands of J.C. Foster [who later died of the wound he received in the fight] and Jacobo S. Coy…and that the said killing was justifiable and done in self defense in the immediate danger of life.”
Former newspaperman and San Antonio historian Sam Wolford told Thompson’s story in a speech to a group of military historians at Fort Sam Houston on Nov. 18, 1953. The Witte Museum, where Woolford served as honorary curator of history, later published his remarks in a 17-page pamphlet with a small press run.
“There are countless gun collectors in the United States, and you know how much they would pay to own the six-shooter they took off Ben Thompson’s body that night,” he told his audience.
Black powder smoke still hanging in the air, just about every law enforcement officer in San Antonio rushed to the scene of the shooting that night. The ranking officers included San Antonio Marshal Phil Shardein and Bexar County Sheriff’s Capt. T.P. McCall. (McCall later got elected Bexar County sheriff, serving from Jan. 1, 1889 to Dec. 31, 1892.) Also on hand was deputy William Krempkau, a former trail driver.
One of the participants, special police officer Coy, later said in a sworn affidavit that he turned Thompson’s pistol over to Shardein that night.
“I examined it without revolving the cylinder and discovered that five shots had been fired,” Shardein said in his statement. “The cylinder has been moved since it was in my possession. When I had it the loaded cartridge was next to the barrel, and cocking it would have thrown the cartridge under the hammer…” In other words, for safety reasons, the marshal either moved the cylinder or took out the shell. (Removing the shell would have been the best bet.) At some point, Shardein turned Thompson’s pistol over to future sheriff McCall.
Historians are not even 100 per cent sure what caliber revolver Thompson had been packing that night. Unfortunately, no one in authority seems to have recorded the weapon’s serial number, long since standard police procedure in a criminal investigation. One writer, not offering a source, said the pistol in question was a pearl-handled, nickel-plated .45.
While that may have been the case, two years earlier when Thompson killed Harris the record shows he used a pistol chambered for .44-40 rounds, a popular Old West cartridge that could be used in a handgun or Winchester rifle.
“He bought ten cents worth, that is five cartridges,” San Antonio gun store owner Charles F.A. Hummel testified after the Harris killing. “They were central [center] fire forty-four caliber.”
Former deputy Krempkau could have answered the question as to caliber and style of the piece Thompson packed on his last night of life. Only a young man at the time of the Thompson-Fisher killing, Krempkau later ran San Antonio’s Barrel House Saloon. “Uncle Billy,” as he came to be called, lived well into the 20th century. By the 1940s, he could claim to be the last principal in the case still kicking.
“Billy, whatever happened to Ben Thompson’s gun,” Wolford asked one day, hoping to land it for display in the Witte.
“Oh, after Captain McCall gave me the gun, it lay around the house for a few years and I finally sold it to a Mexican for $10,” the former deputy said.
For the next decade, Wolford pestered Krempkau trying to get him to remember the name of the man. To Wolford’s lasting dismay, Krempkau never managed to retrieve the name from his memory. The former deputy died on Oct. 11, 1953 and lies buried in San Antonio’s old City Cemetery.
Kurt House, curator of San Antonio’s famed Buckhorn Saloon museum has done considerable research on Thompson. But other than having a faint recollection that the late Tom Keilman may have auctioned a pistol supposedly once owned by Thompson, he does not know if that was Thompson’s death gun or where it is today.
© Mike Cox “Texas Tales” May 8, 2008 column